Where Families Find Support & Solutions


September 15, 2014

The School Solution Newsletter – Fall 2014 Marijuana and Psychosis in Teens


The last six weeks have been unique; I have attended three different professional conferences. I attended the Moments of Change Conference (addiction treatment), the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists Annual Conference, and the Independent Educational Consultants Association Conference. I was inspired by all of the professionals determined to help families and find new ways to help heal. The level of research and clinical sophistication was extraordinary at the Addiction and Psychiatry conferences; I learned more about addiction, mental illness, brain structures and the exciting advances in epigenetics. However, I was struck by how confined their treatment options are, confined by insurance and clinical perspectives. When I look at what treatment is recommended to heal clients and their families, and how the alternatives I can recommend address the needs, I am struck by the need to look beyond professional bias and give the time for impactful treatment for families; that is my role.

The good news is that people and their brains are changeable and we can help create the change., However, it takes time and a healthy environment; to heal, people need to be sober, have enough sleep, exercise, and participate in caring, professional therapy. Often, with my clients it is impossible to accomplish any of those things at home, or in a short term hospital stay, or a 30 day treatment program, but it is possible at some of the therapeutic wildernesses and programs I work with; these are the places where long term change and growth can happen. Innovative, impactful, multi-modal therapy along with a safe emotional and physical environment are all available at these unique places; please just call me and we can discuss what options exist for your client or loved one.

Clinical Update: Marijuana and Psychosis

leafMarijuana was a big topic at both the addiction and the psychiatry conferences. Everyone has seen a rise in marijuana use. Although the results are still coming in and there is still much to learn I can summarize the information shared at both conferences. First, while there does not seem to be a general risk for psychosis, much like alcohol use, if you have some of the risk factors the danger of use escalates quickly.

There were two risk factors that both conferences focused on, the age of first use and family history of mental illness, particularly bi-polar or schizophrenia. The earlier someone starts using marijuana the higher the risk for developing psychosis, additionally, if there is a family history of serious mental illness the risk escalates significantly. If there is a history of serious mental illness in the family then marijuana use becomes dangerously risky; it can trigger a psychotic episode and be a critical factor in whether someone goes on to develop serious mental illness. Just as the mental health community has informed the public that if your family has a history of addiction you are at a higher risk for developing addictive behavior and should consider beginning to drink later, if at all, it is imperative that we inform the public that while many may use marijuana with little negative consequences, for those with serious mental illness in their family marijuana use can be life altering.


Far from the Tree 
By Andrew Soloman
This book investigates the complex relationships involved when a child is not what or who a parent expects and how that child finds their own identity and family acceptance. The book explores this through ten chapters exploring differences from deafness, to Down Syndrome and Transgender. It made me contemplate family and identity formation from a new and transformative perspective.


About Karen

karenKaren has been in practice as a Therapeutic Educational Consultant for over 10 years. She has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Independent Educational Consultants Association, involved in maintaining the highest ethical and professional standards in the profession.

I am available to discuss any questions you have about therapeutic boarding schools, boarding schools, residential treatment or wilderness programs. In addition, I am available to speak to your group about the scope of residential options and what client families they serve—just call or email.

Contact me anytime.



Karen has carefully garnered relationships with outstanding programs, and even individual therapists inside the programs, ensuring a deliberate and effective match.

- Parents of teen girl



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